Remote-working is about trust and communication skills

They go a long way towards tackling the problem of distance as a remote-working employee and a manager try to work together as a two-member team

Updated - January 23, 2019 01:26 pm IST

Published - January 23, 2019 12:57 pm IST

For the eight years she served this IT services company, Amudha V. visited it only 25 times. Every day, on the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift, she would log in at home and finish her day's work. The intangible benefits of flexibility and work-life balance meant a lot to her, and this remote-working job provided both. Not to mention, an attractive compensation.

And so, outside the primary circle of family and friends, those who had known her were surprised to learn that she quit this job early this month.

Here are the reasons.

Amudha had a sense of being an outsider. Her career graph reinforced her misgivings. She got a promotion only once, and her annual hike was not on par with what the market dictated.

“It can get lonely at times; I often felt I was not kept in the loop about organisational changes,” says Amudha, who was lead infrastructure engineer when she quit the company.

Amudha's is not an isolated case. The benefits of remote-working are many and obvious, but the disadvantages can’t be glossed over. While engaging with employees in the remote-working category, there can be problems relating to communication, culture adaptation and employee work assessment.

But these are not insurmountable problems. With the right strategy, remote-working employees can be integrated with the rest of the workforce, and their work assessed appropriately.

The trust factor

When it comes to remote-working, trust is the biggest factor.

“Remote working is not about rules, it’s about trust and motivation,” says Vinaya Bansal, workplace behavior expert and co-founder of The Predictive Strategy Group.

The success of a remote-working arrangement depends on the manager and how they address people-related challenges, especially those that show up in unusual patterns.

Bansal says that for a remote worker, it is necessary that their skills are clearly understood, before they sign up for the arrangement, and there is a manager who operates on the basis of this understanding.

Team dynamics

Shruthi S. has 30 associates reporting to her, both in India and China. She communicates with them through email and other tech tools. A weekly catch-up call is a must. However, with those posted in the same city, she insists on regular face-to-face interactions.

Near or far, if information is shared regularly, a remote-working arrangement will pose less of a challenge to both manager and subordinate.

“I usually ensure that such employees come to office at least twice in a month, so that they engage with other team members and have a face-to-face interaction with me as well. I also ensure all calls with them are video calls,” says Shruthi, who is a manager with a multi-national company in Bengaluru.

To encourage employees to opt for a remote-working arrangement, the company recently extended the shift allowance to everyone.

“Allowing an employee to work in the remote mode is by itself a motivating factor,” she says. But, the person has to gain credibility to be given such an option.

Effective communication is essential to helping an employee in a remote-working job feel engaged.

“Regular feedback about performance, and focussing on the areas of improvement should help virtual workers,” says Shruthi.

Finally, a lot rests on the individual. It’s important that they do not take advantage of the arrangement as this can lead to a breakdown of trust within a team.

Part of this trust-building exercise is also about the manager offering generous appreciation for every job well done.

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